Staying Healthy When Dealing With Stress

In times of high stress and uncertainty, it’s easy to let our routines and healthy habits fall to the wayside. But if we let anxiety and stress overwhelm us, our health could suffer. This is the opposite of what your body and mind need! Let’s talk about some easy ways to focus on nutrition and mental health during overwhelming times or a crisis.

 

Healthy Eating

It may be tempting to stock up and binge on non-perishables such as chips, cookies and crackers, but these are mostly void of nutritional value. A consistently nutritious diet (with a few treats here and there) is critical for maintaining bodyweight, avoiding illness, and minimizing stress. Here are some food choices to focus on:

  • Healthy fats: avocados, eggs, nuts for satiety and mood regulation
  • Lean proteins: help to balance and boost serotonin levels
  • Bananas: rich in B vitamins for nervous system function
  • Citrus fruits: shown to decrease stress; Vitamin C boosts immunity
  • Dark, leafy greens: regulate cortisol and blood pressure

If you’re spending more time at home with your family, now is a great time to try new foods and recipes. Coming together to create a meal is a perfect way to bond and stay connected.

 

Exercise

If your local gym, fitness center, or group class isn’t accessible, you don’t need to forfeit your physical activity efforts. When you keep with your exercise routine—even if the activity looks different—you’re helping your body and mind. If you don’t have access to your favorite instructors or equipment, try these at home:

  • Take daily walks around your house or neighborhood
  • Use trails for hiking and safe roads for running
  • Strength train using bodyweight or items around the house
  • Take advantage of streaming apps or social media for home workouts

Keeping your body moving lowers stress and risk of illnesses and maintains your bodyweight, all of which are essential to your health. Don’t forget that yard work and other household chores also get your body moving!

 

Mental Health

A healthy diet and exercise are essential, but your mental health is just as important especially in times of unease. If you’re having anxious thoughts and feelings, reacting to stress in a negative way, and are having trouble sleeping, then your mental health may need your attention.

Try some of the following when you’re stressed or anxious:

  • Step outside: fresh air and Vitamin D are good for boosting mood
  • Deep breathing: focused, mindful breathing eases anxiety and stress
  • Meditation: consistent practice can keep your mind calm and centered
  • Stretching: loosens muscles and brings awareness to any tension

There are many ways to address your mental health, some may work for you and some may not. This is okay! Find what works and adopt them into your routine.

Additionally, getting proper sleep is vital to your overall health. When we are asleep, our body is restoring muscles from exercise, digesting the meals we’ve enjoyed, and improving our memory and cognition.

Adapting to a new routine in a time of stress may take some time. Be consistent and patient with yourself. Keeping your body and mind healthy are the best things you can do in a time of uncertainty.

If stress or anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life, reach out to a medical professional right away.

Nutrition: 101

Nutrition—what does it actually mean? Yes, nutrition is the biological process of providing your body with proper foods for growth and function, but it’s also more than that. Nutrition is about making informed decisions to better your physical, mental and emotional health. Let’s discuss some manageable ways to focus on nutrition for you and your family.

 

Healthy Eating

While there are many different resources out there, the USDA recommends that your meals consist of:

  • half vegetables and whole fruits
  • one quarter whole grains
  • one quarter protein
  • some healthy fats (such as nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oils)

Food choices will be different for everyone and dependent on food access, affordability, traditions and cultures, and food preferences (including vegetarianism, veganism, etc.).

With this new way of approaching food, your main focuses will be to eat more nutritious foods, trying a variety of nutritious foods and being careful not to restrict certain foods or go on fad diets.

When you start to eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, you’ll start to see that:

  • your digestive system works more efficiently
  • you feel less hungry between meals (preventing junk food snacking)
  • your energy increases

As your body grows accustomed to new and nutritious foods, you’ll see that you start eating less refined carbohydrates and refined sugars which contribute to poor diet, weight gain, and illnesses.

Try this: Include at least one new nutrient-dense food into every meal.

 

Physical Activity

Keeping your body active lowers your risk of many illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. When you eat and drink, you’re taking in calories that your body uses for normal functioning. However, Americans tend to eat larger portions than needed—and usually more refined carbohydrates and sugars—leaving an excess of calories just waiting to be burned!

Remember, you can’t exercise your way from a bad diet. This means that if you’re looking to lose weight, exercise alone will not work. The harmony of eating healthier foods and moving your body will help you maintain a healthy weight. Try to keep the following in mind:

  • Walking helps your body to digest its food
  • Muscles need carbohydrates and protein for energy and muscle repair
  • The more intense the exercise, the more calories you burn

When adopting healthier lifestyle habits, it’s also important to learn to listen to your body. For instance, if you’re recovering from the flu, your body needs rest and fluids more than it needs intense exercise.

Try this: Incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine. This could mean taking the stairs, parking at the far end of parking lots, and walking around your office building during lunch—any movement is better than no movement.

 

Emotional Health

Emotional health is another important aspect of your nutrition. Emotions can greatly affect food and exercise choices. There are many different reasons for this including stress, family celebrations and obligations, and “emotional eating.”

A quick note on emotional eating: everyone has experienced eating while bored, stressed or otherwise emotional. If you have trouble controlling emotional eating, please speak with your health care provider right away.

Eating healthy meals and snacks will help fuel your body appropriately making exercise easier and better for your body. Exercise can:

  • increase your overall energy and boosts your mood
  • help you sleep better at night
  • reduce stress, anxiety, depression symptoms
  • increase self-esteem and confidence

Consider your emotions when you crave “junk food,” or when you don’t feel like exercising. Is there something going on in your life? Will you feel better after exercise, a healthy meal, or rest?

Try this: Keep a record or journal of how exercise and healthy foods make you feel. This information can serve as motivation if you need a boost.

 

Adopting a nutritious lifestyle will be different for everyone. Take it one step at a time, be patient with yourself, and enlist the help of a friend for extra accountability. If you need support and guidance to get started, speak with your primary care provider.

“Ten Tips for Adults” Nutrition Education Classes

Now Open for Registration!

 

DFD Russell Medical Centers is excited to announce a new nutrition education series, “Ten Tips for Adults.”

Educate yourself with healthy, affordable eating and nutrition habits that will benefit you and your entire family through these interactive and engaging classes.

 

Each class is led by a trained nutrition professional from Healthy Androscoggin, where you’ll receive simple, easy-to-follow tips based on the USDA’s “10 Tips Nutrition Series” with themes focusing on “Eating Better on a Budget” or “Choose My Plate” healthy eating guidelines. All classes feature food demonstrations and tastings, take home “10 Tips” handout, and a whole lot of fun!

 

This program is flexible and adaptable for participant needs.

Interested in attending one or all of the “Ten Tips for Adults” nutrition education class series? Check out the details below:

 

Ten Tips For Adults: 4-session series

WHEN: January 21 and 28, February 4 and 11
TIME: 12pm – 1pm
WHERE:
St. Mary’s Nutrition Center
208 Bates Street, Lewiston
INFO: Register by contacting Emily Smith: smith@cmhc.org or (207) 786-1669

 

Ten Tips for Adults: 2-session series

WHEN: January 29 and 30
TIME: 5:30pm – 7:30pm
WHERE:
Lewiston High School (Adult Education)
156 East Ave., Lewiston
INFO: Details and course registration: https://lewiston.maineadulted.org/classes/

 

Ten Tips for Adults: “Eating Better on a Budget” 3-session series

WHEN: January 27, Feb 3 and 10
TIME: 2:00pm – 3:45pm
WHERE:
Dempsey Center
29 Lowell Street, Lewiston
INFO: Details and course registration: https://www.dempseycenter.org/programs/ten-tips-for-eating-better-on-a-budget-lewiston/

 

Ten Tips for Adults: 2 session series

WHEN: February 26 and 27
TIME: 5:30pm – 7:30pm
WHERE:
Lewiston High School (Adult Education)
156 East Ave., Lewiston
INFO: Details and course registration: https://lewiston.maineadulted.org/classes/

3 Tips to Healthier Eating This Year

The holiday season has officially ended—and with it all the rich, decadent foods. Whether you’ve made a New Year’s resolution or not, here are three tips to consider for healthier eating in 2020 and beyond.

 

Don’t Skip Meals

You may think that since you ate so much during the holidays, you need to deprive yourself to lose weight. This isn’t the case! Skipping meals will mess with your blood sugar levels leaving you tired, irritable and ready to binge on high-sugar foods. Stick to your regular mealtimes to keep your blood sugar stable and eat a small snack if you’re feeling hungry between meals.

 

Did you know? It takes 20 mins for your brain to receive signals that it’s full.

 

Slow Down

It’s easy to throw healthy eating habits to the wayside and overindulge during the holidays. If that sounds like you, it’s okay! Now is a perfect time to remind yourself to slow down and get back on track. Eating slowly is good for your digestion and weight maintenance and will deter you from grabbing seconds too quickly. However, if you let yourself indulge in your favorite treats once in a while (a small portion!), you’ll be less inclined to overdo it later.

 

Choose Wisely

Eat your vegetables first! They are full of nutrients and fiber and will help make you feel fuller before you reach for meats or rich foods. Having a small salad or bowl of soup before a meal is a great way to get in your servings of vegetables. Also, if you have a large portion of food, it doesn’t mean that you have to eat it all at once! Serve yourself a portion that meets your needs but won’t make you feel too stuffed and pack up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

 

Do you have concerns about your weight or nutrition habits? Call your DFD primary care provider to discuss weight management. Our primary care providers, nurses and behavioral health staff can help with dietary assistance, goal setting, barriers to weight management, and ongoing support.

March is National Nutrition Month

Join DFD all month long in celebrating National Nutrition Month! A foundation of good nutrition habits is key in preventing disease, staying healthy, and living a longer life.

Did you know?

  • 65% of Mainers are obese or overweight
  • By 2030, half of all Americans will be obese
  • 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes

Take your health into your own hands! A great place to start is to begin to introduce new foods, rather than restricting foods as “off limits.” Add in more berries at breakfast, nuts and seeds for snacking, and more vegetables on your dinner plate. Nutritious eating leads to more energy, which leads to more physical activity – both leading to a higher quality of life.